A senior councillor has disputed claims Norfolk and Waveney have the highest rates of malnutrition in the country and rejected a call to recognise it as a serious public health issue.

Bill Borrett, cabinet member for public health at Norfolk County Council and his fellow Conservatives, have come under fire for their refusal to support the call.

Norwich Evening News: Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for public healthBill Borrett, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for public health (Image: Bill Borrett)

It came after a report by researchers Future Health, entitled Hiding in Plain Sight, stated Norfolk and Waveney had a malnourishment rate of 6.7pc, compared with a national average for England of 5pc.

That led the Labour group at the county council to table a motion calling for the council to take action, including recognising malnutrition as a "serious public health issue".

The motion also called for the council to increase support to community and voluntary organisations supporting people suffering from food and fuel poverty.

But, at a full council meeting on Tuesday, Mr Borrett said the report which claimed Norfolk and Waveney had the highest malnutrition rates in the country was "not based on facts".

Norwich Evening News: A report claimed nutrition rates in Norfolk and Waveney were among the country's highestA report claimed nutrition rates in Norfolk and Waveney were among the country's highest

He said: "It is based on estimates and modelling on the demographic make-up of Norfolk.

"It is based on Norfolk having a higher percentage of older people than elsewhere, so therefore Norfolk must have a higher percentage of malnutrition than elsewhere. It's no more scientific than that."

Mr Borrett said analysis of hospital admissions suggested malnutrition rates in Norfolk were actually lower than average.

He said: "The report is not based on facts. It's not true that malnutrition is higher in Norfolk. It is, in fact lower than average."

He said the council's public health strategic plan contained policies to help people make healthy choices and said the council subsidises Norfolk Community Foundation's Nourishing Norfolk scheme, which provides food support.

Labour's motion was defeated, by 36 votes to 18.

Norwich Evening News: Kay Mason BilligKay Mason Billig (Image: Norfolk County Council)

Council leader Kay Mason Billig said: "I think you may find obesity is a more serious concern than malnutrition."

READ MORE: Norfolk County Council defends action to tackle malnutrition

But Labour leader Steve Morphew said hospital admission figures did not tell the full picture, as not everybody with malnutrition ended up there.

Norwich Evening News: Mike Smith-ClareMike Smith-Clare (Image: Labour Party)

Labour's Mike Smith-Clare, who proposed the defeated motion, said: "Whatever gloss you [the Conservatives] put on this situation, the truth is that malnutrition is real and it is a disgrace."